Anti-government protesters in Yemen Photo: Reuters/Ammar Awad

In a pattern typical of the regimes challenged by Arab Spring demonstrations, Yemen has used violence against its own people in a desperate bid to stay in power.  This week, the violence escalated as the government opened fire on protestors and launched an intense military offensive against defected General Ali Mohsen and his men.

Since our last blog on Yemen, the political situation has further deteriorated. An assassination attempt on President Ali Abdullah Saleh in sent him to a Saudi Arabian hospital for treatment. His departure from the country seemed like a momentary triumph to Yemeni protestors working for regime change. Unfortunately, Saleh’s interim successor, Vice President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, maintained the President’s violent policies concerning protestors.

Despite U.S. demands for immediate democratic transition and UN Security Council pleas for restraint, the government ran bombing raids on cities controlled by Islamist militants in the southern Abyan province in July. The Al Qaeda connected militants have taken advantage of the embattled government’s weaknesses and gained control of the cities. In the government’s efforts to retake the cities in July, hundreds of thousands of civilians were forced to flee the area as the government and militants used heavy weaponry such as machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades against one another.

Ceasefire efforts remained stalled throughout August after Saleh’s offer to share power with the opposition was rejected on the basis that President has repeatedly refused to sign a deal mandating a transition of power. On September 12th, President Saleh agreed to sign the deal but many in the opposition doubted his dedication to meaningful change.

More recent events supported their suspicions. On September 18th, the government forces opened fire on protestors killing 21 people and wounding dozens more. Another 20 people were killed on Monday when government snipers opened fire on protestors demonstrating in the street. Meanwhile, the defected soldiers of General Mohsen’s 1st Armored Division took over a government army base in Sana’a on Monday, prompting fierce artillery battles with the government. Several civilians were killed by a misaimed mortar bomb shot from government positions as they attempted to retake the base from Mohsen’s men. President Saleh has an obligation to protect Yemeni civilians and must end his government’s excessive use of force against unarmed protestors

United to End Genocide is monitoring the situation and Yemen which is on the UEG Conflict Watch List. Check back for more information as the situation in Yemen evolves.

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